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Reimagining the Luxury Store with Oscar de la Renta’s Alex Bolen

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Our worlds are becoming ever more increasingly digital and the pace of change is only accelerating faster and faster, with companies like Accenture suggesting that the coronavirus pandemic has accelerated companies’ digital strategies by a global average of six years. 


While the rising tide of acceleration and transformation is increasing across all businesses, some industries are being spurred on further and faster than others, with one of the most propelled being retail.


As we are nearing the end of what has been an incredibly challenging and unpredictable year, understanding the impact of e-commerce and a mobile-powered economy, most especially for brands within the luxury retail segment seemed a befitting topic for our final Holition Talks webinar in 2020. 


More than ever, this begs the question of how brands can continue to immerse consumers inside their brand universe, and whether or not brick-and-mortar will still have a place in the luxury brand experience.


After two successful virtual panel sessions that tackled everything from digital fashion, augmented reality, to retail in a post-COVID environment, Holition Talks: CEO Series adds a new dimension to the Holition Talks franchise by featuring the industry’s movers, shakers, and top C-suite executives, for an in-depth conversation with Holition’s Chief Executive Officer, Jonathan Chippindale. 

The first Holition Talks: CEO Series kicked-off with Alex Bolen, Chief Executive Officer of globally-renowned and respected luxury fashion house Oscar de la Renta.⁠

Moving from physical to digital retail

The pandemic has been a tremendously difficult time for most retailers, with lockdown in place and stores being forced to shut. For a luxury brand such as Oscar de la Renta, “It's very much about people having somewhere to go and whether it's to go to the office or to go out for dinner or something in between, we don't have anywhere to go right now,” says Alex.


However, despite these challenges, digital has been a bright spot, allowing the brand to test, experiment, and uncover new opportunities to get close to their consumers once more. One specific route being the Amazon platform.

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Changing consumer behaviours and the online retail journey

During the earlier days of social media, while brands were uncertain about digital and e-commerce, customers were quickly becoming digital natives, increasingly at ease with purchases made online and on mobile. 


Fast forward to the present day, e-commerce and the mobile-powered economy is projected to reach nearly $3 trillion by the end of 2020, with most of these transactions occurring on Amazon. Though [luxury] brands struggled to reconcile how Amazon's scale, convenience and speed could fit alongside exclusivity, service and experience, the retailer has recently reported over one billion fashion items sold through that platform.


Well, one globally known, hugely respected premium brand that has looked at Amazon and seen opportunity is Oscar de la Renta, who this year became the first brand to launch on Amazon Luxury Stores. No doubt every other brand in the luxury universe is watching on with intense interest.


For Alex, both the pandemic and this groundbreaking partnership with Amazon allowed Oscar de la Renta to get to know their consumers in a digital context. “As we think about growing our business, we win when she's paying attention to us and not our competition. It sounds sort of simplistic, but really, that's it.” 


“We are trying to find ways where she will pay attention to us more. While our designers find ways to create products that suit our customers’ lifestyles, my part is to figure out how to get them to pay more attention to us than they are to the other guy. This is why the partnership with Amazon seemed like a natural fit.”

luxury stores

On service and environment

While most brands are fearful of democratising luxury or losing its inherent qualities such as provenance or craftsmanship, Alex believes that this is a fairly traditional way of thinking.


Today, winning consumer service is all about meeting the consumers where they are. “We need to come to her. We need to make things easy. And if she's spending a lot of time on Amazon Prime already, we need to figure out if there's a way that she wants to also shop for fashion on Amazon.”


Of course, this is not to say that brick-and-mortar will no longer have a place in the retail journey, it always will. However, to adapt to these times and meet consumers exactly where they are, Alex emphasised the need to create an environment that “will make her fall in love with what we do.”


Whether that’s online or in the physical space, consumers will want to shop and interact with the brand in different ways at different times, and brands need to be able to cater to these needs by offering all of these environments. 


“It goes back to Oscar himself. Oscar hated the word exclusive. I think that our products come at a certain price and we don't intend to change our price positioning much. So there is something fundamentally exclusive about the price that we ask for the goods that we sell. Having said that, we certainly don't want to exclude anyone from our world.”


Offering bespoke brand experiences within the Amazon environment such as allowing customers to explore styles in 360-degree detail to better visualize fit, and making shopping for luxury easier and more engaging, Oscar de la Renta’s “store within a store,” does just the opposite. 


Instead, it’s a welcome invitation to anyone who wants to be immersed inside the world of Oscar.


Aside from Amazon Luxury Stores, Oscar de la Renta continues to experiment with technologies ranging from voice-enabled chatbots to virtual shopping assistants, with the hope of bringing more humanity to a fundamentally digital transaction.

Oscar de la Renta - Luxury Stores

Oscar de la Renta - Luxury Stores

Reimagining the Luxury Store

As we continue to navigate through these times, what can brands expect in the future of luxury retail?


Digital content and interconnected technologies will continue to play an increasingly important role in providing consumers with hyper-personalised experiences. Products, services, and brand experiences can all be accessed within a mere touch of a button, and this is definitely going to continue breaking down traditional barriers and reinvent the consumer retail journey.



“As Oscar used to say, it's not about yesterday, it's not about tomorrow. It is about today. You need to be relevant to what your customers are doing today.


So I think we, like everybody else, need to respond to that.”

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Holition would like to thank Alex Bolen, Chief Executive Officer of Oscar de la Renta and all of our colleagues, friends, and partners that joined us in the sold-out event.


For official announcements regarding the next series of Holition Talks webinars in 2021, please sign up to our mailing list and follow @holition on Instagram and LinkedIn.